April 2015 - 12 Night Grand Mediterranean (Barcelona To Venice) Cruise on Norwegian Spirit
An uneven but overall good experience
The port locations were great and our favorite was Naples, where we took a private taxi tour to Pompeii and up the Amalfi coast. Our taxi driver took us to a seafood restaurant in Sorrento on the beach and suggested a few highlights to see in Naples before we went back to the ship. We had planned to do this on our own but wound up with one of the hoards of taxi drivers looking for tour passengers. Our least favorite was Istanbul. If your tour operator asks if you want to look at some carpets and see a weaving demo, just say no! we wasted 2 hours trying to get away from the used car tactics. There are no bargains. The line to the blue mosque (for people who already had tickets) was 1/2 mile long. No exaggeration. It was just not doable, so we went to another mosque. The crowds were unbelievable as was the traffic-about 90 minutes stuck in traffic. Take the tram and do your own tour. Make sure you eat some baklava-it was the highlight of Istanbul. The NCL tour to Aix en Provence was ok, but skip the tour guide and wander around this lovely city on your own-have a beautiful, leisurely lunch. Le 2 Freres was wonderful. As long as you know the meeting place for the bus, you're ok. Athens was a disappointment, again due to the crowds. Venice was actually magical but many of the gondola tours put you unexpectedly with 4 other strangers. The private ride is over $200 plus tip.
We would do this cruise again but after spending $1500 (and we thought we were careful) just on the ship (after applying a $400) on board credit, we would go ahead and purchase the specialty dining package, the wine package and the internet package. I think that in the long run we would have saved money. The food outside of the specialty restaurants is mediocre at best, and we had a few inedible dinners. The internet starts the clock as soon as you sign on and rounds up to the next minute when you sign off. A brief email cost $10. If you plan on using the internet daily, it would be cheaper to buy the package. Using the internet on land is not a bad plan, but the time is really too precious to spend it looking for a cafe that has wifi. We were told that you can't buy the packages once you are on board. Budget for a significant amount over the basic ticket price so not to be surprised.
The crew is great, but the ship is very old and the beds unbearably uncomfortable. Our room steward brought us a piece of foam (literally) which helped. We had a balcony cabin on deck 9, mid ship which was a good location. We liked the smaller size of the ship which made it easier to get around compared with larger ships we had sailed on in the past.
Go into it with your eyes open and you'll have more fun!